As a kid, I never rode a bike or did sports like gymnastics and karate because “it wasn’t good for girls”.

Later I realized that it was to avoid the risk of breaking my hymen and “losing” my virginity, but I only realized the magnitude of this “loss” when my cousin and best friend got married. As a baby she was abused by a mullah, a clergyman. Her mother was less concerned about the trauma that the abuse caused her daughter, as a result of which her daughter’s hymen was broken.

I grew up in a society where a woman’s value is her beauty and her body, and that’s measured by the herds of animals given as dowry when she gets married.

As Afghan women, our bodies have suffered under fundamentalism, misogyny, violence, patriarchy and US occupation. Today, oppression and violence against women has worsened under the Taliban rule. Women who wear nail polish, heels, or perfume, leave home without a boyfriend, or laugh out loud in public are considered “immoral”, as are women who dare to leave the house for work or study. The bold and grandiose protests of women in Afghanistan are proof that we will no longer be silenced. We will continue to struggle, resist and revolt against fundamentalism, inequality, violence and patriarchy. The Taliban cannot repeat today what they did twenty years ago.

I am not ashamed of my body. My body is a symbol of resistance to forces that want to use it to control me.

Abridged from the main article that was published in The Guardian